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SYMPHONYA Emerging Issue in Management, n.

1, 2000-2001
www.unimib.it/symphonya

The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding*


Ries Al**, Ries Laura***

Abstract
The power of a brand is inversely proportional to its scope. When you put your
brand name on several products, indeed, the line extension allows an increase in
sales in the short term, but it undermines brand name in the mind of the consumer
in the long term.
A brand should strive to own a word in the mind of the consumer. Once a word is
precisely associated with a brand, it is almost impossible for a competitor to create
some stronger associations.
There are no barriers to global branding. A brand should know no borders.
Keywords: Brand; Brand Management; Global Branding; Laws of Branding;
Marketing Management

There are many basic laws in the brand-building process.


1. The Law of Expansion: the power of a brand is inversely proportional to its
scope. When you put your brand name on several products, indeed, the line
extension allows an increase in sales in the short term, but it undermines brand
name in the mind of the consumer in the long term. Do you broaden the line in
order to increase sales in the short term? Or do you keep a narrow line in order to
build the brand in the mind and increase sales in the future? Do you build the brand
today in order to move merchandise tomorrow? Or do you expand the brand today
in order to move goods today and see the decline tomorrow?
The emphasis in most companies is on the short term. Line extension,
megabranding, variable pricing and a host of other sophisticated marketing
techniques are being used to milk brands rather than build them.
2. The Law of Contraction: a brand becomes stronger when you narrow its focus.
When you offer too many things the quality of your product or service will be
mediocre. The average McDonalds has 70 or 80 individual items on the menu.
Half the employees are teenagers, not yet old or mature enough to handle the
*

Summarized by permission from The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. How to Build Your
Product or Service into a World-Class Brand, Mark Plus Quarterly, August-October 1998
**
Ries and Ries, Chairman (al@ries.com)
***
Ries and Ries, Co-Founder (laura@ries.com)
Edited by: ISTEI - University of Milan-Bicocca

ISSN: 1593-0319

Ries Al, Ries Laura, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, Symphonya. Emerging Issues in
Management (www.unimib.it/symphonya), n. 1, 2000-2001, pp. 30-34
http://dx.doi.org/10.4468/2001.1.04ries.ries

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SYMPHONYA Emerging Issue in Management, n. 1, 2000-2001


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complexities of todays operations. And people wonder why the food and service
arent as good as when they just served hamburgers, French fries and soft drinks.
(The original McDonalds menu had just 11 items including all sizes and flavours).
They offer too many things and as a result the food and service is mediocre.
Good thing will happen when you narrow the focus.
3. The Law of Publicity: the birth of a brand is usually accomplished with
publicity, not advertising. A new brand must be capable of generating favourable
publicity in the media or it will not have a chance in the marketplace.
In the past, it may have been true that a beefy advertising budget was the key
ingredient in the brand-building process. But what worked in the past doesnt
necessarily work today. We live in an over-communicated society, where each of
us gets hit with hundreds of commercial messages daily. Today brands are born,
not made.
4. The Law of Advertising: once born, a brand will die unless kept alive with
advertising. Publicity is a powerful tool, but sooner or later a brand outlives its
publicity potential.
The process normally goes through two distinct phases. Phase one involves the
introduction of the category.
Phase two concerns the rise of the company that pioneered the new category.
5. The Law of the Word: a brand should strive to own a word in the mind of the
consumer. Once a word is precisely associated with a brand, it is almost impossible
for a competitor to create some stronger associations.
If you want to build a brand, you must focus your branding efforts on owning a
word in the prospects mind. A word that nobody else owns.
6. The Law of Credentials: the crucial ingredient to the success of any brand is
its claim to authenticity. Credentials are the collateral that you put up to guarantee
the performance of your brand and that makes every other claim about your brand
much more believable.
When you have the right credentials, your prospect is likely to believe almost
everything you say about your brand.
7. The Law of Quality: quality is important to have, but brands are not built by
quality alone. There is almost no correlation between success in the marketplace
and success in comparative testing of brands. Whether it be taste tests, accuracy
tests, reliability tests, durability tests or any other independent, objective thirdparty testing of brands.
Quality or rather the perception of quality resides in the mind of the buyer. If you
want to build a powerful brand, you have to build a powerful perception of quality
in the mind.
8. The Law of the Category: a leading brand should promote the category not the
brand. The most important branding decision you will ever make is what to name
your product or service. The most efficient, most productive, most useful aspect of
branding is creating a new category. Thats the way to become the first in a new
Edited by: ISTEI - University of Milan-Bicocca

ISSN: 1593-0319

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category and ultimately the leading brand in a rapidly growing new segment of the
market.
9. The Law of the Name: in the long run a brand is nothing more than a name.
Dont confuse what makes a brand successful in the short term with what makes a
brand successful in the long term. In the short term, a brand seeds a unique idea or
concept to survive. In the long term, the unique idea or concept disappears. All that
is left is the difference between your brand name and the brand name of your
competitors.
10. The Law of Extensions: the easiest way to destroy a brand is to put its name
on everything. The rise in line extensions is a companys natural instinct to copy
the competition. There is the way many companies think. The competition must
know something we dont know. Lets do the same thing.
One reason 90 percent of all new brands are line extensions is that management
measures result with the wrong end of the ruler. They only measure the erosion of
the core brand. And its not just the erosion, its also the lost opportunities.
11. The Law of the Fellowship: in order to build a category of product, a brand
should accept the presence of other brands. Choice stimulates demand. Customers
have choices, even when there is no competition. Competition increases the noise
level and tends to increase sales in the category. Competition also broadens the
category while allowing the brands to stay focused.
Customers respond to competition because choice is seen as a major benefit.
12. The Law of the Generic: one of the fastest routes to failure is giving a brand
a generic name. In the past, companies thought they needed big, scopy, generic
names. And the brand name was almost always the company name. And yet, in the
past this naming strategy clearly worked. Why? Years ago the market was flooded
with commodities produced by thousands of small companies operating in a single
town or region. The big, scopy, generic names put these small competitors in their
place.
13. The Law of the Company: brands are brands. Companies are companies.
There is a difference. Consumers buy brands, they do not buy companies. When
you combine a company name with a brand name in a clear and consistent fashion,
the brand name is the primary name and the secondary name is seen as the
company name.
With this caveat in mind, a company is a company as long as the name is not
being used as a brand. Brand is a brand. There is a difference. A company is the
organization that manufactures or produces the brand. It is not the brand itself.
14. The Law of Subbrands: what branding builds, subbranding can destroy. The
essence of a brand is some singular idea, or attribute or market segment you can
own in the mind. Subbranding is a concept that takes the brand in exactly the
opposite direction. Subbranding destroys what branding builds. Branding concepts
that are not driven by the marketplace are going to go nowhere. Subbranding,
masterbranding, and megabranding are not costumer-driven concepts.
Edited by: ISTEI - University of Milan-Bicocca

ISSN: 1593-0319

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15. The Law of Sibling: there is a time and place to launch a second brand. Laws
of branding seem to suggest that a company concentrate all of its resources on
single brand for a single market. A second brand strategy is not for every company.
If handled incorrectly. The second brand can dilute the power of the first brand and
waste resources. Yet, in some situations, a family of brands can be developed that
will assure a company's control of a market for many decades to come. The key to
a family approach is to make each sibling a unique individual brand with his or her
own identity.
16. The Law of Shape: a brands logotype should be designed to fit the eyes. Both
eyes. A logotype is a combination of a trademark which is the visual symbol of the
brand and the name of the brand set in distinctive type. Logotypes come in all
shapes. The typefaces used to set the word can help or hinder the communication
process, but only slightly. Legibility is the most important consideration in
selecting a typeface used in a logotype.
17. The Law of Color: a brand should use a color that is the opposite of its major
competitor. Another way to make a brand distinctive is with color. Basically there
are five colors (red, orange, yellow, green and blue) plus the neutral colors (black,
white and gray.) Make the brands color the opposite of its major competitor.
18. The Law of Borders: there are no barriers to global branding. A brand
should know no borders. In our consulting work we find that most clients strongly
believe two things: first, their brands market share cannot substantially increase in
their home countries. Second, they need to grow.
The perfect solution to achieving both goals is to build a global brand. That means:
keep the narrow focus in the home country. And then go global. For years the
magic word on many brands has been imported. In spite of duties, tariffs, import
quotas, inspections, regulations, red tape, and petty harassments, the world is
becoming one big global. And your brand had better get on the global bandwagon
or you risk losing out altogether.
19. The Law of Consistency: a brand is not built overnight. Success is measured
in decades, not years. Markets may change, but brands shouldnt. Ever. They may
be bent slightly or given a new slant, but their essential characteristics (once those
characteristics are firmly planted in the mind) should never be changed. Markets
may change, but brands should stay the same.
20. The Law of Change: brands can be changed, but only infrequently and only
very carefully. Companies are often focused on what they need to do internally in
order to facilitate the change of a brand. But changing a brand does not occur
inside a company. It occurs inside the mind of the consumer. If you want to change
your brand, keep your sights on your target, the consumers mind.
21. The Law of Mortality: no brand will live forever. Euthanasia is often the best
solution. While the laws of branding are immutable, brands themselves are not.
They are born, grow up, mature and eventually will die.
Edited by: ISTEI - University of Milan-Bicocca

ISSN: 1593-0319

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SYMPHONYA Emerging Issue in Management, n. 1, 2000-2001


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There is a time to invest in a brand and there is a time to harvest a brand. And
ultimately there is a time to put the brand to sleep.
22. The Law of Singularity: the most important aspect of a brand is its singlemindedness. Loss of singularity weakens a brand. Whats a brand? A proper word
that can be used in place of a common word. Whats a brand? A singular idea or
concept that you own inside the mind of the prospect. Its as simple and as difficult
as that.

Edited by: ISTEI - University of Milan-Bicocca

ISSN: 1593-0319

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